With the advent of summer and the slow demise of my post-pregnancy hormones, I’m deep in the throes of a really lame crisis. The glow of pregnancy has vanished, even the leftover stuff that kept my skin looking great for the first six or eight months while I ate whatever food I wanted to and forgot to wash my face. As the glow dissipated, I remembered that once, my dermatologist told me that I was lucky because my skin let me know whenever I’d eaten too much dairy or sugar or something else that isn’t good for me by violently breaking out. Since I like to eat my weight in ice cream (I am not kidding), I thought she was taunting me.
Anyway, here I am, back fighting the skin wars. My skin is not as good as it was when I was a teenager, when it was oddly almost perfect, but it’s better than when I was in my early ’20s, when it was a complete cystic disaster. I’ve read tons of blog posts and articles, and even some books when I’m feeling old-school, about what makes your skin better, happier, less zit-prone, perfectly moisturized without getting shiny, and so on. I’ve taken pills and vitamins, used creams and facial mists, and seen several dermatologists, from the holistic to the one who tried to prescribe me extra medication to combat the side effects of the first medication he’d prescribed. I’ve tried homemade face washes with ingredients like honey and brown sugar and oatmeal, although I won’t do the ones with avocado because I’d rather make guacamole. And I’ve finally arrived at a routine that works okay for me, but I’m not going to tell you what it is because it’s mine, all mine! HAHAHA.
No, just kidding, here is my big secret: I don’t do anything in the morning but put on moisturizer with sunscreen, unless I forget. Sometimes I clean my face with olive and castor oils mixed together and then use diluted tea tree oil or sometimes Neosporin for zits. Sometimes (for the past week) I use a cucumber face wash by Yes to Cucumbers. Sometimes I just wake up at 11 p.m. after falling asleep on the couch at 9, rinse my face, and stumble to bed. Sometimes I concede to my dermatologist’s advice and eat less dairy and sugar. I’m not endorsing any of this. It’s just what I do, and sometimes it works. Other times, I frown and then my 4 year old tells me I have “Yoda lines” on my forehead. Then I tell him it’s because I’m so wise when in actuality it is likely that Yoda didn’t follow his dermatologist’s advice either.
I arrived at my routine through much trial and error, laziness and being cheap. I won’t spend $60 on face wash because there are lots of other things I’d rather spend $60 on, like gas or food or a few hours of babysitting so I can get some writing done. And I won’t do any routine that takes a half-hour every morning or night because I’d rather read or sleep. And I hate it when people try to get me to buy multiple products from a particular line because I don’t want a 12-step process for my face and neck. And I don’t want to use products with a shit ton of chemicals in them due to my sensitive skin.
So, I’m perhaps kind of a pain in the ass about this. But for some reason when it comes to personal care products (unlike pregnancy), I feel the need to do a LOT of research. Each choice has the potential to become a marathon of reading and comparing product reviews and ingredient lists, not to mention throwing money into the void because you need to try all of these products to see if any of them actually works as promised. It’s absurd. It’s the paradox of choice. And I think I have figured out when this all started: when my mother stopped buying me Clean & Clear products because I had, you know, moved out to go to college and she figured I knew how to wash my own face. Guess it turns out I’m kind of conflicted about it.
The fact is though that nothing is guaranteed to work. Everyone is different, everyone’s skin is different, and the skin care industry doesn’t know or care about any of us personally. For obvious reasons, they are invested in getting you to buy a bunch of products to smear on yourself and replace every month or so. I’m not even talking about makeup here, which is a whole other complicated conversation about choice and Western beauty standards. But we all have to wash our faces. We all want decent skin. We all, men and women alike, feel worse about ourselves when we don’t look our best. There are just so many ways now to do this relatively simple thing that it can feel impossible to choose a path.
So standing in the beauty aisle at the drugstore, that’s right about the time when I start thinking that if I’m around for the zombie apocalypse, the upside will be that I can stop worrying about what moisturizer to use because I’ll be too busy trying to find some safe water to drink, let alone bathe in. Maybe being constantly covered in sweat and dirt and blood from fighting all those zombies will double as a sunscreen. Even if it doesn’t, at least I won’t have to worry about which brand of cleanser to choose. I’ll just take whatever I can loot off of the shelves of whatever zombie-free store I can find, and hope my skin and I live to see another day.